An interview with Renato Bratkovič ~ creator of Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival!

As you may know, I have just spent a wonderfully creative weekend at the amazing Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival in Slovenia, which was the hosted and created by the very talented writer and creative advertising director,  Renato BratkovičThe festival is unique in its concept and originality, and so I was it was a real  pleasure to catch up with Renato, to ask him he felt about this year’s event…

Alibi is a unique, noir festival, set in the beautiful Slovenian mountains. What was the initial inspiration for its creation?

Nino, our friend photographer, and I made the film about Gora pod lipo (http://www.gorapodlipo.com) back in July 2015. When the film was finished I realised, what a lovely place this was. I could imagine a bunch of writers writing there, eating, drinking, having fun … I told Lena (she runs the place with her boyfriend Primož) about the idea and she said, “Yeah, sure, create a concept and we’ll do something about it.” After two weeks I had this idea about inviting five writers for a weekend, let them draw titles for their stories, write them and present them in the end. The last weekend in September the first guests arrived.

This is the third year of the festival, how has it has evolved since the beginning?

We try to add little bits every year – the writing workshop concept, where participating writers get their titles and have to write the stories, is unique I believe, but I wanted a film night as well. The first Alibi happened so fast and the film I wanted to present (the first official Slovenian film noir Case: Osterberg)  but I was travelling from festival to festival at the time, so we ended up with Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me.

We hosted Case: Osterberg with the screenwriter and the producer last year, and this year we presented a film based upon my story and we invited my favorite director, Damjan Kozole, with his film Night Life.

What are your feelings about this year’s event?

Well, it seems I’m lucky to choose writers who form a brilliant team. And this year was no exception. But most of all, I’m happy I had more women than men this year. Women tend to write even darker stories then men, I think.

Alibi differs from many other literary festivals as the writers create their stories while in attendance – do you believe it is important to celebrate spontaneous creativity?

I believe we need this sense of accomplishment in the end. I mean it’s great if you’re able to visit a festival where you read your own work, but when you find yourself with a task of having to create something on the spot and present your work, you win twice: you get this beautiful feeling of having created something and you have one more story that year. I guess this is what drives my guests to come here and I’m happy about it.

How has the festival evolved over the years, and what are your future aspirations for Alibi?

Well, the workshop concept will definitely remain the core of the festival. In the future I’d also like to have Slovenian publishers as guest – maybe some collaboration between them and our participating writers might come out of it.

My story began with Bistrica Noir literary evening at our local library a couple of years ago, so I’ll try and find a way to get them involved in the festival. And I feel one film night is not enough.

As this was the third year, my plan is to have an anthology with 25 stories published every five years. So in three years, all the writers from the first five years are going to be invited to join us again for the sixth edition when we’re going to promote the book and have some real fun. But we’ll have to find some additional sponsors.

Thank you for your interesting insights Renato!

For more information on the festival why not visit the Website and Alibi FB Page?

For further information on Renato please visit:

 Radikalnews

Artisan advertising and publishing house.

Renato at Amazon

 

 

Alibi International Crime/Noir Literary Festival

 

The Invitation

I was very fortunate enough to be asked to the 3rd Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival in the beautiful surroundings of Slovenska Bistrica, Slovenia. It is a very special event with five guest writers invited to spend the weekend surrounded by stunning scenery in the mountains at the idyllic Gora Pod Lipo . The festival is organized in conjunction with Artisan advertising and publishing house and Tednik Panorama, media sponsor.

How was the experience?

Imagine the nicest place you have visited on holiday; then add some of the best cuisine you have ever tasted, a beautiful full-bodied red wine, named Alibi especially for this event, add a selection talented writers, a lovely, comfortable hotel in the mountains, (Hotel Jakec) and of course, a cool bar to hang out in when you are not writing (Bar Grega). It’s all true! I can assure you I am not exaggerating – this was a very special event!

What did you do?

On the Friday evening (after I had spent a lovely day at Lake Bled with advertising creative, writer, and festival organizer Renato Bratkovič, the five writers attended a dinner at Goro Pod Lipo, (where we were spoiled the entire weekend with excellent food and wine), and each of us drew a slip of paper with our story title ready for the following  days writing.

Did we enjoy creating new stories?

Yes very much! Of course, there is a little extra pressure in writing a full short story to be read the following day, But as the guest writer, poet, and publisher Jaka Tomc observed, sometimes a little pressure can be a good thing for a writer…

Goro pod lipo has a warren of private rooms and secluded spaces and so we all chose our own areas, carefully, meeting up for coffee with German, thriller writer, Silvija Hinzmann . And Croatian radio presenter and fiction writer Andrea Žigić-Dolenec   for delicious meals in the cozy, traditional style restaurant.

Where there any trips out?

On Saturday evening we all bundled into the minivan and headed down to the local cinema in Slovenka Bristrica. The first feature was a new film starring Igor Korošec, Jana Jeglič was created by Artisan, Final Focus,  called Minus 1 – and very entertaining it was too. I loved the noir feel of the piece and the character- without revealing too much, was very dark and manipulative; but he did want to help…

The second film was called Nightlife, which was based on a real-life incident with a lawyer in Ljubljana. To say that this man exceeded the boundaries of taste and decency is an understatement. The lawyer’s wife seemed a little dubious too, she kept saying she didn’t understand what was happening, but I was never sure if that was actually true. Her attempts to hide evidence in her handbag while being questioned at the police station, were quite humorous, although I’m not entirely sure if this was meant to be the case. The film’s director Damjan Kozole,  kindly answered our questions afterward.

After all of that hard work, what did you do to relax?

As if you need to ask! We all headed off to the very cool Bar Grega to drink more wine, local beers … and yes, eat a little extra, delicious food… more strudel anyone? (as I’m sure you can imagine being a writer is very thirsty work, and we have to keep our strength up by consuming as many calories as possible in order to produce our very best efforts!)

What happened on Festival Day?

After spending the morning editing our stories and drinking coffee (caffeine is also indispensable to the writing process) we prepared ourselves for the event. The five stories readings came first, followed by some questions from Renato, and then from the audience. It all went very smoothly, and the audience seemed to be engaged and entertained. There was a pleasant time spent socializing afterward with the audience members, quite a few of whom, we recognized from the bar and the cinema earlier.

So what happens next?

The stories will be translated so that they can be read in Slovenian and English and the will be posted on the website, and eventually, they will be included in an exciting anthology of stories with the writers of the previous years and future festivals. I will, of course, keep you informed of what’s going on and when the stories are posted for reading.

For more information why not visit the Website and Alibi FB Page?

 

 

 

 

Helen Dunmore∼Your Blue-Eyed Boy

Your Blue Eyed boyWhen a writer whom you admire immensely, dies, and you have to start referring to them in the past tense, even though you know that their work will endure, long past their own personal expiry date (5/6/2017), the question is, which book of theirs do you review?

Should it be Helen Dunmore’s last book, Birdcage Walk, which contains insightful references to the illusory nature and often damaged durability of life? Or perhaps it would be more meaningful to pay homage to the novel whose influence, if you are kind enough to look for it, can be seen in my own writing (especially in the flash fiction, Winter Baby).

As both a writer and reader, I cannot resist opting for the novel which impressed me the most, the book I have read endless times, whose characters gained my attention years ago, and were seemingly unwilling to let me go. So for me, in remembrance of her brilliance, it’s got to be, Your Blue-Eyed Boy.

The novel is about blackmail, ‘the most intimate of crimes’  it’s about how it makes you feel, how it entangles and corrupts your soul and the lengths to which it can make you go, in order to keep your dark, shameful secrets from destroying your already troubled life.

“The wind blows harder and your house begins to move on a sea that was always there, beneath the crust of the land. And you are afraid, but you are beginning to move with it.”

Simone is deeply in debt, she has taken a job she doesn’t want or enjoy, in order to support her family, through her husband, Donald’s bankruptcy and subsequent emotional breakdown. Donald is gravitating towards suicide, his attitude of relentless negativity is wearing Simone down to a point in which things look very desperate indeed.

Add to the mix, a disturbed middle-aged man, recently released from prison, who was once her lover and has become her nemesis; the prognosis is not healthy, the characters are horribly damaged and appear to be on the verge of dissolution and disintegration.

“He has consumed himself. He has made himself not exist anymore in this middle-aged man with bulky flesh and face. He has lost his fine sharpness. He is loose and blurred, like a photograph out of focus, stickered with a note from the laboratory that tells you where you have gone wrong. I look for what I knew before.”

The writing is beautiful, dark and uncompromising in its willingness to explore what it feels like to face a serious threat, only to discover, that perhaps the most deadly danger of all, was already lingering, malevolently, inside of you.

Why do I enjoy her writing so much? It is her style, which is unique; her special combination of poetry and prose blending seamlessly, giving a sense of transcendence as if she is pushing at the boundaries of what it is possible to express.

♦♦♦

Helen Dunmore & her poetry: Passionfood-three poems about love.

 

Please note that I will be taking a two-week holiday break and then I will be back with some travel reviews

 

Jake ∼Out of the Gutter Online

Today my new flash fiction, Jake, is at up at Out of the Gutter Online’s Flash Fiction Offensive! If you haven’t already been there, it’s a great site with loads of exciting, brutal and beautifully written pieces of crime fiction. Here’s a little taster of Jake for you, and if you want to find out what’s going to happen next, there’s a handy link to the site at the end…

“It’s all your fault, you know that, don’t you?” 

I cast my eyes down quickly, away from his accusing stare. The knife in his fist was still dripping, the blood red, stark and angry against the metal blade. Jake’s face was glowing unnaturally. It looked so unworldly and strange against the darkening desert sky.

The truth, according to Jake, was that these situations were always my fault. And it’s true that I had wanted to stop at the gas station, but I hadn’t even noticed the woman who had spoken to him out of turn. So I knew that this wasn’t related to anything I had said or done. It hadn’t been my idea to follow her in the truck either…Read more              

Paranoid

It’s so good to be back at Pulp Metal Magazine with my new short story Paranoid!

This one is about a man suffering from paranoia who believes he has been targeted by a religious cult. I have always found cults to be fascinating, and when I grew up as a teenager in the late seventies, cults seemed – if the newspapers were to be believed – to be proliferating everywhere!

Just like my character Frank one of these organisations had, for some reason, decided I might be worth pursuing. It went on for months, but it began one innocent Saturday afternoon while I was out shopping by myself.  This incredibly handsome young man opened a shop door for me; I was very surprised and smiled back. His eyes were mesmerising and it literally took me several seconds to notice his shaved head and orange robes…

When I came out of the shop he and several of his ‘gang’ were waiting for me. They began calling after me and following me down the high street. At the time I thought it was funny, like something from a bad Monty Python sketch … until it happened every time I went to town. The stupid thing was that I was the least likely person I knew to be indoctrinated, as I hated conformity of any sort and I would have looked really sickly in orange.

shutterstock_233455516

It is true that we all have our individual perceptions  which are coloured by our memories, past hurts and special recollections. It is completely unrealistic to assume that others experience the world in exactly the same way as we do, as individuals. I imagine that given the right circumstances, everyone can experience a feeling paranoia to some degree…

 

“They would lay in wait outside of the shops at the mall in the afternoons. I would catch threatening glimpses of their vivid orange robes as they lingered in shady doorways, waiting for an opportunity to lure me away. I was already on their radar and I’m not sure how I got there. Maybe it was something to do with the weird phone calls; disembodied voices would ask for me using my name, Frank, and then refuse to speak. It felt as though they were trying to bait me, waiting for me to reveal myself to them, through my fear.

I became anxious and stopped enjoying going to the mall, or talking to anyone on the phone, in case they were listening in. I didn’t know what powers they had or what they wanted from me.” Read more at Pulp Metal Magazine

 

 

The Death Of Three Colours by Jason Michel

Jason Michel’s unique writing speciality is the character on the verge of mental meltdown. In his latest novella, The Death Of Three Colours, Jonah is a man existing at the brittle edge of rapidly disintegrating economic and cultural system. His interactions with the rest of humanity consist almost entirely of an allegiance to a tightly-knit group of petty criminals, drug dealers, and their associated wives and girlfriends. The normally independent Jonah, who has enough existential angst to fuel an entire John Paul Sartre novel, becomes drawn into the groups’ ambitious new plans to expand their drugs empire internationally using the internet, from the relative comfort of the run down pub where they all, regularly meet.

Jonah is a closet internet entrepreneur, who can envisage a somewhat frightening future with new currencies on the Dark Web, and his skills prove to be invaluable to the business. With his help, the band of the disparate petty criminals can foresee a future in which their careers are about to progress to the big time. Unfortunately, given their ages, average intelligence level, and the clashing of overblown male egos, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

As mentioned earlier, Michel’s characters are never entirely, psychologically sound. Jonah’s psyche is fragmented and he wrestles daily with his wicked alter ego Milton, whom he is barely able to control. Milton is a violent, vicious, misogynist and the nearest this guy is ever going to get to paradise is in the acts of fulfilling his own monstrous needs.

Don’t be fooled into believing that this is a simplistic Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde type of situation, as Jonah/Milton is fully aware of his psychological condition –  so, don’t expect a shocking reveal moment of the type found in Fight Club. At times Milton can be useful, and Jonah is prepared to acknowledge this, although the idea of dependence on the caged monster inside of his head fills him with shame.

Jonah is no angel either, when he is not dabbling in the Dark Web his world is ruled by his two overriding obsessions. The first of which, and predictably male, is sex, but his character has matured enough by now, to welcome a relationship into which he can ‘share his inner world’, without the need of painful medical intervention. So along comes Sally and he is looking pretty set. Unfortunately Sally has enough historical baggage to comprise everything he has been working towards: is she a dangerous femme fatale?

His second obsession is of the mystical goddess variety. No, he isn’t trying to upgrade his girlfriend; this Mexican folklore saint literally rules his world. Not only does he worship her but he fantasizes about sleeping with her too. (I know, I know, typical male behaviour).  But the scene in which this happens is far from ordinary as Jonah is seeking sexual perfection in the form of a transcendent, ethereal and orgasmic state in which he can reside forever. That might not seem too shabby for a year or two, you might think, even if his chosen goddess is skeletal and not traditionally attractive by most peoples standards –But a word to the wise – passion between the gods, saints and humans rarely ends well and Santa Muerte, also known as the goddess of death, is a demanding and vengeful mistress…

Captura de pantalla 2012-10-16 a la(s) 18.03.13 (1)

I don’t often do book reviews, and this one is the first on my site, so why now and why this particular novella, you may be wondering? I chose this book as it a terrific read! I loved the dark, poetic prose, the Mexican mythology (or alternate religion), and the exciting plot with plenty of twists and turns, with characters I could emotionally invest in. Best of all though, was the cruel undercurrent of deliciously dark humor that runs stealthily all of the way through it.

This is a crime / horror novel and I must in all conscience include a mild warning for potential, psychologically unsound and emotionally unstable readers – prolonged reading usage may cause addiction, and in recommending this book, I am not prepared to take on any personal responsibility for that situation… You can read The Death Of Three Colours by Jason Michel, entirely your own risk! Links below…

Jason
The Death Of Three Colours at  Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk

 

 

 

Cry Baby at Pulp Metal Magazine

My new story, Cry Baby is at the marvelous Pulp Metal Magazine today! Considering some of the fantastic stories which have been up there recently, I’m feeling really chuffed!

Cry Baby is a story about a psychopath with a dark and frightening past; who is about to evolve from a stalker into a serial killer.

I wrote this story while on the Litreactor course, “Making a Monster” where the impressive horror writer, Ania Ahlborn, was as my tutor. I found the course to be a fun, interactive experience and I feel that I learnt a lot from it, especially about exploring character development and  also advance story planning; which has never been my strong point.

The photo above is from the Spanish horror/ghost film, “The Orphanage” (2007), which I felt fitted the theme quite appropriately, although my characters dis-figuration has occurred internally rather than externally, due to his childhood experiences at the orphanage.

As maybe you have already guessed, I borrowed the title of the story from that wonderful Janis Joplin song, Cry Baby. I love Janice for her unique style and fabulous voice, and I’m hoping that she won’t mind too much, what I have done with  the title of her beautiful song.

 If you get there first, it’s very difficult for a woman to accuse you of stalking; anyway following women about, that’s for amateurs who haven’t done their homework. If you follow a women into a café or  restaurant or are seen loitering around her apartment, alarm bells will ring and she will eventually spot you, may confront you or even call the police, and this is the last thing that you need…

You can read my story, Cry Baby here at Pulp Metal Magazine

Skin Deep

I’m so happy to have a  new flash fiction out at Spelk  fiction today!

My story Skin Deep is based on my favourite song by The Stranglers. I have loved the haunting feel of that track for years. The lyrics are enigmatic but deal with the volatile and unpredictable nature of friendship.

I believe that all of  us, at some point, will have our friendships tested, especially in times of stress and trouble. People who you thought you could rely on, can simply disappear. Then strangers and others who you least suspect of caring; will sometimes step into their shoes…

Just to remind you -here are those great lyrics:

Many people tell you that they’re your friend
You believe them
You need them
For what’s round the river bend
Make sure that you’re receiving the signals they send
Cos better, you’ve only got two hands to lend

Maybe there’s someone who makes you weep
And some nights loom up ahead
When you’re asleep
Some days there’s things on your mind you should keep
Sometimes, it’s tougher to look than to leap

Better watch out for the skin deep
Better watch out for the skin deep
(better watch out) Watch out for the skin deep
(better watch out) Watch out for the skin deep
Better watch out for the skin deep

One day the track that you’re climbing gets steep
Your emotions are frayed
And your nerves are starting to creep
Just remember the days
As long as the time that you keep
Better, you better watch out for the skin deep

Better watch out for the skin deep
Better watch out for the skin deep
(better watch out) Watch out for the skin deep
(better watch out) Watch out for the skin deep
Better watch out for the skin deep

…and this is my story at Splek fiction today,

Skin Deep

 

 

Spectral Warning by Sonia Kilvington

Delighted to have my ghost story at Pulp Metal Magazine!

PULP METAL MAGAZINE

As she adjusted her white linen cap and carefully smoothed out the

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